Taking care of the wellbeing and nutrition of children is a fulltime occupation on its own. Ensuring a child’s fitness and growth takes a lot of careful planning. Your primary concern will most probably be constipation and diarrhoea, yet, the issue of indigestion is what needs more attention. Indigestion in kids doesn’t only demand your attention due to the pain and suffering the child goes through but can have long-term repercussions on your child’s health. Let us look at how to identify and cure indigestion in kids.
Indigestion is a common, yet painful ailment. Photo: iStock
Understanding Indigestion in Kids
Indigestion goes by the medical term of dyspepsia. It is the feeling of being uncomfortably full, with a few more added symptoms. People usually relate suffering indigestion to the feeling of overeating since the discomfort arises after a meal. But, in most cases, indigestion has some underlying causes. In this condition, the stomach may swell and create pressure on the diaphragm leaving you breathless. The valves of your food pipe may slacken to push food or acid from the stomach up. Indigestion cannot be termed a disease by itself. It is more likely an indication of other underlying issues.
Signs That Your Kid Has Indigestion
Indigestion can be noticed in babies too. Your baby would not be able to communicate discomfort, except by crying. Keep an eye on the following symptoms:
Your child is not able to feed properly.
Your child is arching his back while feeding.
Baby exhibits fussiness while feeding.
Baby has a prolonged case of hiccups.
Baby exhibits nasal congestion and difficulty breathing.
These symptoms are quite similar to baby colic. Talk to your paediatrician if you suspect your baby is suffering from the condition.
For toddlers and older kids, the identification of symptoms become slightly easier. Your toddler is likely to cry due to discomfort. Look out for the following signs along with incessant crying:
Your child complains about upper or middle abdominal pain.
Your child complains of a burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen area.
Your child is feeling too full to eat.
Your child has continuous hiccups or burping.
Your child whines about flatulence and of his stomach feeling “stretched”.
Your child is coughing without having a cold or experiencing congestion.
Your child has a hoarse voice and experiences pain when swallowing.
Your child is vomiting and feels nauseous.
Feeling nauseous and vomiting is a sign of indigestion in kids. Photo: iStock
Most situations resolve with mild home remedies and over time. If the child is in a bad condition or doesn’t recover quickly, or if he display more severe symptoms, visit your doctor immediately.
Reasons for Indigestion in Kids
Let us examine the general and mild causes of indigestion:
A delicate and immature digestive system.
Consuming a large meal or overeating in a short period.
Eating too fast or gobbling down food.
Too many drinks taken together with meals, especially carbonated drinks.
Too many chocolates, sweets and candies.
Eating food containing excess spice, oil or fibre.
Insufficient sleep and too much stress.
Eating very late in the night.
Being overweight or obese.
Being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Childhood obesity can contribute to indigestion among other ailments. Photo: iStock
Clinical or underlying causes include:
Medications such as ibuprofen, antibiotics and aspirin – The nitrate substances and other chemicals in the medications cause a flare-up of stomach acid while relaxing the oesophageal sphincter. This causes heartburn and indigestion.
Some supplements such as iron-supplements – Most iron supplements cause constipation which may lead to indigestion.
GERD or Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease – This is a vicious cycle because indigestion causes GERD and GERD causes further indigestion. This needs immediate medical attention.
Gastritis – Inflammation of the stomach for various reasons.
Hiatus Hernia – The stomach pushes against the diaphragm and blocks the oesophagus. Acid reflux and indigestion are common consequences.
Gastroparesis – The food does not move out of the stomach in time causing indigestion in kids.
Helicobacter Pylori – This is an infection which has indigestion as its primary symptom. Long term infection may lead to other complications.
Celiac disease or Lactose intolerance – Allergies or food intolerances have indigestion as the main indication.
Stomach ulcer/Peptic ulcer – Open sores on the inner lining of your child’s stomach can lead to ulcers. This can cause severe pain, internal bleeding and other problems. This needs immediate medical intervention.
Stomach cancer – This is quite rare among children but, it needs to be ruled out if your kid has indigestion regularly.
Home Remedies for Indigestion in Kids
There are multiple ways in which you can calm your kid during a bout of indigestion. You will need to experiment to find out what works best for your child. Here are a few things that you can do:
Burping after feeding: It is one of the most vital steps to take during and after feeding. It works by clearing away all trapped air and the baby feels comfortable afterwards.
Holding upright: Hold your baby upright after the feed for some time. Let the food settle in the stomach before laying them down. You may even put them to sleep in that position.
Raising the head: For older kids, raising the head will reduce acid reflux, if any. Do so by putting a brick or an object under the legs of the side of the bed that they usually lay their head-on.
Appropriate clothing: Dress your child in clothing that is loose and comfortable, particularly around the stomach.
Practice right eating habits: This goes especially for older kids. Teach them to chew properly and eat slowly. Keep them away from spicy and oily foods, processed food and carbonated drinks.
Take care of hydration: Ensure that your child is getting his or her required amount of hydration daily.
Engage in physical activities: Encourage them to be active and engage is physical activity and playtime. However, refrain from heavy or strenuous activity during or immediately after eating.
Reducing anxiety: Practise relaxation techniques with your kids, or encourage them to engage in light playing, to reduce the anxiety that sometimes leads to indigestion in kids.
Medication: If you know your child cannot stomach certain medicines and supplements, refrain from letting them have those. Talk to their paediatrician about alternatives.
Essential oils: Mix Fennel oil with any carrier oil and massage the baby’s tummy. You may also rub or sprinkle a few drops of peppermint oil on the crib or near the pillow to ease nausea.
Kitchen remedies: Some foods and herbs can provide relief to a child suffering from indigestion. These include:
Homemade gripe water
Warm milk and honey
Apple cider vinegar
Coriander and mint juice
Indian gooseberry (Amla) juice
If these home remedies solve the problem, you’ll know that it was a simple case of mild indigestion.
However, if symptoms are not abated after taking these measures, a visit to the doctor’s office for further examination and medical advice, is necessary. Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat the issue, which may include antacids, proton pump inhibitors, histamine blockers, prokinetics and antibiotics. For indigestion arising out of mental health issues such as anxiety, you may need to visit a psychotherapist.
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